Photograph of Professor Michael Woods.Professor Michael Woods

He holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Wales, Lampeter, and a PhD from Bristol University.


Office: K9
Phone: +44 (0)1970 622 589


  • Head of the New Political Geographies Research Group 
  • Chair, DGES Centenary Planning Working Group
  • Co-Director, ESRC WISERD/Civil Society Research Centre

Teaching Areas

Michael Woods is on Research Leave during the 2014-15 academic year and is only teaching on the following postgraduate modules:

  • GGM3720 Rural Economy, Society and Policy
  • GGM3920 Training for Policy Research


Twitter: @globalrural

Research Interests

Michael Woods’s research interests address the broad fields of rural geography and sociology, political geography, economic geography and social geography, with a particular focus on the politics and dynamics of rural change. His current and recent research falls primarily into five main areas:

1)     The emergent ‘global countryside’ and the reconstitution of rural places under globalization, employing assemblage theory, critical topography and relational perspectives to understand the interplay of local and global actors and processes and human and non-human actors in reproducing and contesting globalization in the rural sphere. This interest forms the focus of a major European Research Council project, GLOBAL-RURAL (2014-19), building on his previous research as coordinator of Framework Programme 7 project, DERREG (2009-11) and a partner investigator for Australian Research Council project, ‘Globally Engaged? Responses to Neoliberal Globalization among Family Farmers in Australia’ (led by Lynda Cheshire, University of Queensland, 2009-11).

2)     The ‘politics of the rural’, rural policy and rural social movements, including local rural conflicts, the mobilization of rural protest movements around issues including hunting and agriculture, and the contested articulation of the rural through policy discourses. These dynamics were examined in the ESRC-funded project ‘Grassroots Rural Protest and Political Activity in Britain’ (2006-8, with Jon Anderson, Cardiff University).

3)     Civil society, community governance and participation, in both rural and urban settings, including interactions between local and global civil society, participation in rural community governance and leadership, and the form, function and potential of parish, town and community councils. This research interest is pursued through the ESRC WISERD/Civil Society Research Centre, in which Mike leads Theme 1 on ‘Locality, Community and Landscapes of Civil Society’ and particularly the work package, ‘Redefining Local Civil Society in an Age of Global Interconnectivity’ (2016-18, with Jon Anderson, Cardiff University). Previous research on this theme has included an ESRC-funded project, ‘Participation, Power and Rural Community Governance in England and Wales’ (2000-02, with Bill Edwards), and studies of parish, town and community councils for the Welsh Government and Defra.

4)     The social and economic restructuring of rural communities and regions, especially in Wales as explored through the work of the Wales Rural Observatory between 2003 and 2014, including projects on rural development, the public sector, market towns and migrant workers, with collaborators at Aberystwyth and Cardiff Universities including Paul Milbourne, Bill Edwards, Terry Marsden and Mark Goodwin, and researchers including Graham Gardner, Catherine Walkley, Sophie Wynne-Jones and Laura Jones.

5)     Creative ruralities and art-science collaborations, exploring the role of the creative economy in rural areas and the intersection of art and science in sustainable rural community development, the latter investigated through an AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award.


Research groups

Current Research Projects

  • ‘The Global Countryside: Rural Change and Development in Globalization (GLOBAL-RURAL)’, European Research Council Advanced Grant, 2014-19 (PI, with Jesse Heley). Blog and website
  • ‘Redefining Local Civil Society in an Age of Global Interconnectivity’, 2016-18 (PI, with Jon Anderson), part of the ESRC WISERD/Civil Society Research Centre. Website
  • ‘Engaging Art-Science Collaborations’, AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award, 2013-2017 (PI, with Deborah Dixon and Harriet Hawkins).

Selected Previous Research Projects

Current PhD Students

Research Assistants

  • Dr Laura Jones
  • Dr Anthonia Onyeahialam
  • Dr Marc Welsh


Michael Woods joined Aberystwyth University as a Lecturer in Human Geography in 1996, having completed his first degree of the University of Wales, Lampeter, and his PhD at Bristol University, and was appointed as Professor of Human Geography in 2008. Between 2007 and 2013 he was Director of the Institute of Geography and Earth Sciences and served on a number of university committees, including the University Council. In 2014 he was appointed to a two-year post as Professor of Transformative Social Science, responsible for building capacity in social science research across the university.

Mike’s research interests focus on rural geography and political geography and he has led the department’s New Political Geographies Research Group between 2004 and 2008 and since 2013. From 2007 to 2014 he was Co-Director of the Wales Rural Observatory, a joint venture with Cardiff University commissioned by the Welsh Government to undertake research to support the Wales Rural Development Programme. Since 2012 he has been Aberystwyth Co-Director of the Wales Institute of Social and Economic Research, Data and Methods (WISERD) and he is also Co-Director of the ESRC WISERD/Civil Society Research Centre established in 2014 and the Aberystwyth representative on the executive of the Public Policy Institute for Wales. His research has been recognized with John Fraser Award for Research Excellence in Rural Geography by the Association of American Geographers in 2010, and he has held Visiting Professor positions at the University of Queensland and the University of Ljubljana.

Mike is a member of the Welsh Government’s Diamond Review of Higher Education Funding and Student Finance, and was a member of the HEFCW Research, Innovation and Engagement Committee from 2010 to 2013. He is a member of the UK UNESCO Man and Biosphere Programme Committee and of the National Training Advisory Group for Community and Town Councils; he represents Wales on the Council of British Geography (COBRIG) and is a former chair of the Political Geography Research Group of the RGS-IBG and a former member of the Council of the Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers).

He is Editor of the Journal of Rural Studies and a member of the editorial boards for Dialogues in Human Geography and European Countryside. His publications include textbooks, Rural (Routledge, 2011), Rural Geography (Sage, 2005), An Introduction to Political Geography (1e 2004, 2e 2014, Routledge) and Key Concepts in Rural Geography (Sage, 2015), the monograph Contesting Rurality: Politics in the British Countryside (Ashgate, 2005), and edited books, New Labour’s Countryside: Rural Policy in Britain since 1997 (Policy Press, 2008), and Globalization and Europe’s Rural Regions (Ashgate, 2015).